Written by: Katy Lithgow
Will 2021 see the bull market continue its ride, or will the 2020 bears have their way? As the year begins, your audience – investors – are considering what the market will look like this year. While market commentators are optimistic about the rollout of the various vaccines, they also caution that the second and third waves of COVID-19 are dampening the recovery.
Investor sentiment research, like Natixis Investment Managers (a BlueChip client) annual survey of Institutional investors for 2021, released in December, indicates that investors’ high hopes for the year ahead are counterbalanced by the continued virus spread, lockdowns and elevated unemployment in affected industries.
If the jury is still out on how the markets will perform this year, the good news for financial services marketers planning their communication for the year ahead is that we see five emerging “guard rails” or rules) to communicate clearly and effectively while still responding to changing market conditions.
These rules are:
- Communicate for the post-pandemic environment
- Frame communication in terms of the risks your investors are seeing
- Keep it real and relatable (not perfect)
- Be responsive and tweak your communication if needed
- Reconsider your channels (paid, earned, shared, owned)
1. Communicate for the post-pandemic environment
As every marketer is aware, we are starting this year in a very different environment to the one that we expected for the year at this same time in 2020. Positively, we are no longer living in unprecedented times, and can plan investor communications informed by a real understanding of the challenges this audience faces, both as investors, and as humans. Some of the insights from our December CEO event on How to grow FUM in a COVID-19 disrupted world will apply to your investors, and can be useful to take into consideration when mapping out this year’s plan.
2. Be aware of the risks investors are facing
A fundamental tenet of communication is understanding what’s keeping your audience up at night. Framing your communication accordingly is now essential.
When planning your 2021 investor communication approach, it’s important to reflect on how investor concerns have changed over the past year -check that your key messages, voice, and content plan align with investors’ views. You may need to test your thinking or undertake more research to get this right.
3. Keep it real and relatable
As we shared recently in a briefing on the top five financial services PR trends in 2021, in times of crisis, real leaders show up. This same rule applies to your investor communication plan, and can be simplified to say: be more visible, make sure you reflect the wider world and what’s going on for investors, but don’t feel the need to have perfect answers, or high production values in the form of communication. In fact, doing so may damage your credibility. For example, if you needed to quickly respond to changing market conditions, you could choose to film a quick, iPhone-capture, video update with your CEO or CIO, to be published on your owned channels such as website or blog. It’s not going to look perfect but speed and insight now matters more (for many brands and leaders) than polished production.
We’re seeing some super funds execute this very well with their investor update videos. Often filmed at home on the CEO or CIO’s smart phone, they’re not about a perfect set up, but about showing the members – the investors – how their fund was responding to a particular market movement or a policy change.
As a second example, you could take a similar approach to BlueChip’s COVID-19 Response Briefings and set up a dial in to share insights with your investors in real time. In 2020, we held these briefings initially daily, then weekly, then monthly, to help our clients and friends respond to the challenges brought about by the pandemic. The response was exceptionally positive. But they were far from perfectly produced or typo-free.
4. Be responsive and tweak your communication if needed
No one can predict exactly how the year will emerge, or how markets will perform in 2021, so to craft authentic communication for your investors, find new stories that will resonate with them. Test and learn, and keep monitoring and adjusting your plan to make sure the narrative fits your audience.
Being responsive is also about keeping up with the channels that your audience uses. As we start the new year, we know that people are more engaged online than ever before. This means that you may have access to a bigger online audience, who can be reached at a lower cost, perhaps through targeted digital advertising or social community management. This won’t last – we’re already familiar with Zoom fatigue, and hearing of employees returning to the office in some form – so seize the opportunity and have a backup plan. You should also make sure that you’re using the right channels to meet investors’ needs. Last year we heard a lot of frustration around paper mail where a text or other digital communication would have created a better experience for the audience.
5. Be multi-channel (paid, earned, shared and owned)
The way we think about communication now is based on the PESO model – paid, earned, shared and owned media - with thanks to our friends at Spin Sucks). If you need convincing, read their found Gini Dietrich’s rationale for integrated channels in PR and communication.
When you’ve identified the challenges your investors are facing as we head into the year, it’s time to work out the tactics you will use to communicate with them. They should fit into the PESO model, and be integrated and measurable. Your tactical plan should also include a timeline for reaching your investors, and who in your team is responsible for this.